What are Antioxidants?

What exactly are antioxidants?

Antioxidants ensure that free radicals do not cause damage in our body. Free radicals are aggressive molecules, which arise during oxidation processes in our body. A free radical was once a normal atom in your body, which by the loss of an electron has become a free radical.

These free radicals are not always bad: they make intruders like bacteria harmless and are therefore indispensable. But they also attack normal cells and thus cause an accelerated oxidation (aging) of these cells.

In order to control the oxidative action of free radicals, your body needs antioxidants. Some antioxidants your body produces itself, such as glutathione and melatonin. Other types you get through your diet. Well known such antioxidants are vitamin C and vitamin E.

Antioxidants have an abundance of electrons and can "donate" them to free radicals, which are then restored to normal molecules.

An Antioxidant can donate an electron to a free radical and render it harmless.


Oxidation in the body is a normal process. Oxidize means: to connect with oxygen. This happens for example by pollution, heavy metals, (cigarette) smoke, chemicals and an unhealthy diet.

Oxidation-increasing factors are:

  • stress
  • inflammation
  • extreme exercise
  • high calorie intake
  • disease

Actually, you could say that a person cannot live without oxygen, but it will also kill you slowly. Another word for oxidising is rusting. A person rusts during his life as it were slowly.

In what foods are antioxidants?

Many vitamins, minerals and plant substances are recognised as antioxidants. Here are some well-known examples:


  • Vitamin C: Found in citrus fruits, berries, peppers and leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin E: Mainly found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin A: Can be obtained from liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and other fruits and vegetables.


  • Selenium: Found in Brazil nuts, fish, seafood and whole grains.
  • Zinc: Found in meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  • Manganese: Present in whole grains, nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables.

Plant substances:

  • Flavonoids: These include various antioxidant compounds such as quercetin (in apples, onions), resveratrol (in grapes, red wine), and catechins (in green tea).
  • Carotenoids: Among others, beta-carotene (in carrots, sweet potatoes), lycopene (in tomatoes), and lutein (in leafy vegetables) have antioxidant properties.
  • Polyphenols: A large group of antioxidant compounds, present in foods such as green tea, cocoa, berries, olives and turmeric.

It is important to note that this is only a selection of known antioxidants. There are many other nutrients with antioxidant properties that are not included in this list. It is best to follow a varied diet with a wide range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains to get enough antioxidants.